National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2024

Uncertainty sources for measurable ocean carbonate chemistry variables

Carter, B.R., J.D. Sharp, A.G. Dickson, M. Álvarez, M.B. Fong, M.I. García-Ibáñez, R.J. Woosley, Y. Takeshita, L. Barbero, R.H. Byrne, W.-J. Cai, M. Chierici, S.L. Clegg, R.A. Easley, A.J. Fassbender, K.L. Fleger, X. Li, M. Martín-Mayor, K.M. Schockman, and A. Wang Zhaohui

Limnol. Oceanogr., 69(1), 1–21, doi: 10.1002/lno.12477, View open access article at ASLO (external link) (2024)

The ocean carbonate system is critical to monitor because it plays a major role in regulating Earth's climate and marine ecosystems. It is monitored using a variety of measurements, and it is commonly understood that all components of seawater carbonate chemistry can be calculated when at least two carbonate system variables are measured. However, several recent studies have highlighted systematic discrepancies between calculated and directly measured carbonate chemistry variables and these discrepancies have large implications for efforts to measure and quantify the changing ocean carbon cycle. Given this, the Ocean Carbonate System Intercomparison Forum (OCSIF) was formed as a working group through the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry program to coordinate and recommend research to quantify and/or reduce uncertainties and disagreements in measurable seawater carbonate system measurements and calculations, identify unknown or overlooked sources of these uncertainties, and provide recommendations for making progress on community efforts despite these uncertainties. With this paper we aim to (1) summarize recent progress toward quantifying and reducing carbonate system uncertainties; (2) advocate for research to further reduce and better quantify carbonate system measurement uncertainties; (3) present a small amount of new data, metadata, and analysis related to uncertainties in carbonate system measurements; and (4) restate and explain the rationales behind several OCSIF recommendations. We focus on open ocean carbonate chemistry, and caution that the considerations we discuss become further complicated in coastal, estuarine, and sedimentary environments.

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